Melonya Cook and her Daughter Madisyn
at the USSF; photo credit Sheilah
By Melonya Cook
My daughter Madisyn was diagnosed with a very rare vascular abnormality called Sturge Weber Syndrome after she experienced a stroke-like episode while she was on the playground with her first grade classmates. Until that life changing September day in 2004, we didn’t know Madi had a disability of any kind, only that her skin was many different colors with many different patterns. Since only one in every 50,000 babies is born with Sturge Weber Syndrome our pediatrician just didn’t know enough to recognize the disability until the day her brain stopped working. Since 2004, Madisyn has experienced four of these stroke-like episodes. During these episodes, she loses brain function and more brain tissue dies. In addition to the debilitating strokes Madisyn’s disability presents, she has challenges with epileptic seizures, glaucoma, insulin resistance, developmental and physical delays, and migraine headaches.
I am a single mother working at a nonprofit organization. I, like many parents of the 12 million children living with special health care needs, make too much money to qualify for the current Medicaid program and too little to qualify to purchase it from the government. In the ten years I have worked for my employer, health insurance costs have increased for both the organization and the employees.
This year the increase is staggering. My family no longer has access to a traditional health care plan. We must choose to opt-in and pay the first $6,000 of any prescription or medical services needed from out of pocket or opt-out and not have insurance. Prescriptions alone will cost over $2,000 per month. This new coverage began July 1. We were informed of the new plan only 20 days prior to implementation. Like many employers, mine did not understand the devastation this would cause my family. This was perhaps a good financial decision for the organization – but not for the employees, not for my daughter.
So today, I come to you as a mother of a child with a disability, as a civically responsible adult and as a human being and ask: WHY am I being forced to choose between providing my family with basic human needs -- safe housing and adequate nutrition -- or buying the prescriptions my daughter needs to stay alive?
Madisyn should have a right to have safe housing, nutrition, and access to needed life sustaining medications. As her mother, I should have the right to be economically self-sufficient so I can provide for my family’s basic needs. My family should not be forced to live in poverty because I am a single mother, with a master’s degree, earning the same wage as 50% of our nation’s households ($50,000), and have a child who is challenged with special health care needs.
Dr. Margaret Flowers protesting
for single payer healthcare.
By Sheilah Garland-Olaniran
Margaret Flowers, M.D., is a doctor on a mission for single payer healthcare -- an expansion of medicare for all. She spoke at the recent USSF, in Detroit on the need for independence from the Republican or Democratic parties in the fight for real healthcare reform. Dr. Flowers, who practiced pediatric medicine for 15 years, discovered early in her practice that the insurance industry made it nearly impossible to treat her patients without their profit-driven system interfering in her delivery of care. So, she joined PNHP (Physicians for a National Health Program). Joining PNHP and the growing movement for healthcare reform in order to educate and join with others fighting for the same healthcare reform was an important decision for Dr. Flowers.
Like others, Dr. Flowers, understands that the political system is broken: “I never had any illusions that we would get single payer, but I understood we needed to push it as far as we could and use the opportunity to educate and join with as many people as possible to fight for it. My priority is to help create a social justice movement with true healthcare reform as its priority.”
At the USSF Healthcare NOW! People’s Movement Assembly (PMA), Dr. Flowers told the gathering that “In our fight for single payer we need only remember ICU. The movement must have Independence -- that it is not tied to a political party -- we have to drive our own agenda. The movement needs Clarity -- the ruling class created so much deliberate confusion and distraction from the single payer fight by the public option debate. They did an effective job of confusing a profit model for healthcare with a public model, which eliminates the insurance industry from the delivery of healthcare. And the movement has to be Uncompromising. The movement has to set its own Agenda. Along with healthcare we must demand what we require -- education, a job with live-able wages, clean water, dignity and respect. Our power lies in forming solid blocs of educated voters. Our power lies in an independent movement that cannot be taken off its course.”
Sheilah Garland-Olaniran, Chicago, IL, Single-Payer Fighter and Contributor to the People's Tribune
By Sheilah Garland-Olaniran
Subsidiary of GM Tries To Take Healthcare Benefits to a New Low
Saginaw, MI — UAW members at Nexteer Automotive (formerly GM Steering Gear, then Delphi) are clear. The Healthcare legislation passed this winter at best did NOTHING to stop employers from dropping healthcare coverage for employees and could actually accelerate the end of decent employee based health insurance plans for employees and retirees.
The auto industry has already robbed new hires of pensions and retiree Healthcare. Management at Nexteer wanted future new workers’ healthcare insurance to exclude coverage of their spouses and children with a benefit that would only cover the worker!!!
Workers at the facility rejected these and other contract proposals three times (as usual management played the JOB card and even laid workers off temporarily to sell this and other cuts). In the end, workers ratified a local agreement, just before the company was sold to a Chinese auto parts maker. The new agreement does allow coverage to family members of new hires. This is an important victory but does not solve the problem of corporations considering their profits before the healthcare of their workers.
Workers who are used to seeing “Cadillac” plans for autoworkers can not rely solely on contract negotiations to maintain even minimal benefits or prevent benefits from being cut altogether. The struggle for an expansion of Medicare for all which would provide access to healthcare for all is the only way we can protect present and future workers.